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Yellowknife to Resolute

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I’m working quickly as I have to get to sleep, forgive grammar and spelling.

Another good night’s sleep Thursday night. We removed the packaging from the items we bought and packed them as efficiently as we could while ensuring weight and safety (hazardous materials) were accounted for. We woke at 630 and got on a conference call with the Mars Society Ghana chapter at 7. The students had lots of questions and Andrew did a great job of answering. Roger of our mission support crew is an excellent communicator and ran the presentation for our section. There were a lot of people on that call and it felt a little surreal to be a part of it. At 7:30 we bounded out the door for the airport to make our 8am deadline, but the flight wasn’t to leave for another 2 hours. The coffee machine was broken in the terminal, which was a drag. We shared a half gallon of green smoothie and some granola bars we purchased the day before. We met some folks from Texas and Montana who regularly travel around. They are headed to Arctic Watch, where they have rented a Twin Otter to fly “all around”. They will also be on Devon island for a few days tracking walruses but will be too far east to contact. We exchange numbers and coordinates anyway. It never hurts to make friends in a place where resources are slim. In fact that is something about this trip that I haven’t experienced in this way when traveling to well developed parts of the world. Everyone just talks to everyone here because we’re all here for the same interesting reasons, plus we might be talking with what soon might be our closest neighbors. Our first night we met someone from the states who is here helping clean up industrial wastewater runoff areas in the northern territories. She gets paid to clean the planet. 

I’ve never flown in an ATR 72 before, it was pleasant except for the noise and vibrations. There is plenty of room with the cabin half-full and the cabin crew is excellent. I got two cups of coffee and some cookies. I supplemented those with some fiber biscuits I bought at SeaTac. We’ll bust open the food bin when we get situated in Resolute. But we’ve learned we’ll be stopping in Cambridge Bay to take on fuel. We landed on a gravel runway, where the ATR shows its strengths. The fuselage is low to the ground so it has airstairs, the landing gear are stout, trailing link dual wheel like a navy plane and the gear doors deflect the gravel and dirt from the fuselage and tail. It is a high wing twin turboprop. The high wings also avoid damage from rocks. With a very tight turn radius, there is no need to push it back from a gate. The air is a little cooler here (Cambridge Bay) and there is a shocking amount of mosquitoes at the airport. I don’t leave without getting bitten. We are back in the air in less than 20 minutes. 

Andrew our commander is a geologist. He points out striations that are caused by the ice age glaciers, massive features you might not notice if you were walking on them. He asks me and Caleb to record a waypoint on our GPS because he saw a circular feature below and wants to investigate it further to see if it is another known meteor impact crater. (I’ll keep those coordinates among the crew for now). 

As we fly over the water, the thin sea ice is still present and makes it difficult to see outside without sunglasses. We will be testing for the presence of nano and micro plastics in the snowmelt. It hurts to think we are likely to find them at such a remote place. 

We’re descending into Arctic Watch now. 

Cold. Darn cold. It’s the wind, though. We stand with a group of tourists on the edge of the runway while they wait to board the plane from which we just departed. They’ve been living it up in the yurts about a kilometer away on the bank of a river where there are large comforters and a professional chef. Our plane brought them another 2 kegs of beer. The new tourists go to the yurts while the departing ones take our plane away. And there we are. Just shy of resolute. Standing in the middle of the arctic alone. It’s much quieter now, the ATR is way louder on the outside. The wind chills our hands and we search for more layers to keep us warm. A crackle of a voice on the radio signals the arrival of a Kenn Borek Air Twin Otter 30 minutes later. They park the plane next to our gear and place the wing tip right over my head. It’s a pretty red plane, well cared for. They load our items and tie them down. The metal seats fold down from the walls. There are ear plugs for us. The tundra tires on the otter come up to my waist and make an easy time of the gravel as we roll down the runway for an astoundingly short short-field take off. We pop off the ground in a few hundred feet and we’re off. The smell of aviation fuel and oil and Cornwallis Island, home of Resolute in the distance. My excitement is building. A 30 minute flight. 

Resolute, logistics of finding our gear and food, it appears to be all here. We get an expensive room at the hotel tonight and an excellent meal. Apparently miners and other workers must be fed well, they are. We have bbq ribs, chicken, potatoes, and veggies, salad, fruit (not my last apple!). We dive into a minute-by-minute review of our plans. What do we do if this happens? How long do we want to spend on this task before we abandon it? How far apart are the two of us willing to work? Not farther than conversation distance. Caleb and I are pilots and adopt a standard Crew Resource Management approach to this critical work. When one of us is working the details, the other is keeping the broad situational awareness.

Another shower, inconsistent heat, but grateful anyway. We tested our satphones and listed out the critical items must go on the first flight, the rest on the 2nd. I ask the crew what they will do while they wait for us to contact them. I suggest card games. I wont post until our Starlink is up, maybe a day or two.

Thanks for sticking with me this far, see you at FMARS!

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